The National Football League Foundation has awarded Crook County School District a $35,000 grant to help cover the cost of an athletic trainer over the next three years.
"Athletics are hard on bodies, and no matter how hard the coaches work to alleviate issues, there's always sport-related injuries," said Crook County High School Athletic Director Rob Bonner.
Michael Estes, who is just finishing his second school year as an athletic trainer for The Center Foundation based at CCHS, will remain on the job, thanks to the NFL Foundation grant and The Center Foundation.
As part of its commitment to improve athlete health and safety at all levels of sport, the NFL Foundation launched a pilot grant program to increase the number of high school football players with access to an athletic trainer. Current research suggests nearly 30 percent of high schools do not have an athletic training program.
The program aims to improve the health and safety of student athletes at up to 150 public high schools beginning next fall. Eligible schools in four states — Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma and Oregon — applied for a three-year grant award totaling $35,000 through this pilot program.
Bonner heard about the grant designed for rural communities from other athletic directors, and Cynthia Jurgensen, the school district's grant coordinator, wrote the grant.
The school district will receive $20,000 for the 2017/18 school year, $10,000 the following year, and $5,000 the third year.
Bonner thanked Jurgensen for her efforts, calling her a blessing.
"Grant writing is not my forte, so without her, it wouldn't be possible," Bonner said.
The Center Foundation also helps make the athletic trainer position possible, which Bonner calls a great relationship.
Formed in 1988 by physicians at The Center Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Care and Research in Bend, The Center Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization and a national innovator in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of sports-related concussions.
They partner with Central Oregon high schools to provide certified athletic trainers at their schools and on the sidelines of local sporting events. These athletic trainers provide coverage for practices and home games, on-site medical care five days a week, and teach injury prevention strategies to local students.
The Center Foundation Executive Director Sonja Donohue said they were helping cover the cost of providing an athletic trainer at CCHS.
"The true cost for a full-time athletic trainer in a dedicated high school is close to $50,000," Donohue pointed out. "These grant moneys help pay towards our services and help us provide our partners with the best athletic trainers possible."
She said The Center Foundation was already providing services in Crook County before this NFL Foundation grant, and Crook County was also raising money to support the program.
"We're working very well with The Center Foundation, so we want to do everything we can to continue working with them," Bonner said. "This grant is very great. I breathed a sigh of relief when we got this grant because it's really going to help us pay for his services for the next few years."
Estes works 30 hours a week from August to the end of June.
"He shows up about 2-2:30 every day, so he's in his office prior to the school day being let out," Bonner said. "Athletes can show up to him for anything from rehabilitation to stretching, anything that could maintain a healthy body and keep injuries from occurring."
The athletic trainer attends home athletic events and many of the away events. He travels with the football team and attends all home varsity games for other sports as well.
"He spends a great deal of time with the kids and is there for pre-game, taping and what-not and also for injuries," Bonner said.
Many other Central Oregon high schools have trainers, but CCHS has not always had one.
"Any time one of those schools would come to us, they're used to services a trainer could provide, and we didn't have one, so it was putting coaches and athletes in a tough spot," Bonner said. "So now with Michael, our coaches can coach."
Most local coaches do not have a medical background, Bonner pointed out, so it takes the liability away from them having to make those decisions.
"Mike was highly trained in that area, so it very much increases the level of care that our athletes and opponents receive when they're in Crook County," Bonner pointed out. "Our athletes deserve that, and now they have great medical care."